It’s no secret that music heals. It’s no secret that music stirs feelings. It’s no secret that music can trigger emotions that we didn’t know existed. Whether it’s Puccini or Beyoncé, music makes us feel.
When my ex and I broke up this summer, I was more than heartbroken. Without a doubt, the feeling of emptiness and disbelief, the punched-in-the-gut sensation as she drove away left me speechless, echoing “I don’t think this is going to work out” over and over again as if it had been recorded and on repeat. As tough as I considered myself to be, I never thought that I could be too sad for music. Surely, this would go away, I thought. Music, which guided my every day and served as a soundtrack to making my bed, driving, working out, one-woman shows in the shower, etc., always seemed to be my “feel good” of the day. After the breakup, it got to a point where I couldn’t listen to any song, happy or sad, without bursting into tears. Surely this would go away, I thought. Before I could truly feel comfortable listening to my favorite songs—only some relating to love itself—I went through a period of comparing every line of lyrics I heard to my life. From Janis to Aretha, there wasn’t a chorus that I didn’t try and analyze to fit my personal puzzle. Old mixed CDs left in my car of classic opera were my saving grace for the minimal connection to melodic interludes throughout my day. But even then, I was listening to Italian arias because it meant that I didn’t have to understand what they were singing. Surely this would go away, I thought.
About a week ago, by some force of nature, I stumbled upon Joni Mitchell. I sought out the legendary singer songwriter on a whim, and by chance, the first song I listened to was “A Case of You.” I would imagine that the feelings I felt after listening to this song once can be compared to the first time one reaches their first orgasm. I wanted to explore this song more and more. It turned me on and showed me a perspective that I had been seeking. Up until this point, I found it very difficult to get over the breakup. Because I was the one who was dumped, and because I am younger than my ex by more than a few years, and because I had never driven so deep into emotion like I did with her, I was at a loss for words. Finally, within three verses, the words were here, blaring through my speakers. I was listening to “A Case of You” as I made my bed, as I drove to work, as I wept in the shower while singing Joni’s words, though not in sadness, but in a state of relief and exertion. No longer was I analyzing a song to force-fit my story, comparing my life to its lyrics, but rather feeling complete as Joni’s analogies and imagery painted my feelings exactly.
Discovering Joni Mitchell and experiencing “A Case of You” made me feel valid. It authenticated my feelings, worries, doubts, insecurities, and hurt. It brought me reassurance that it is okay to cry, to want, to need, and to move on. If I could choose a line that described the reality of which my feelings dwell in now, “part of you pours out of me” would be the best example. As the catalyst to the cry fest that followed my first listen, her representation of liquidity and cohesion continues to impress upon me so clearly like no other lyric I’ve heard before. Joni Mitchell helped me realize that a lover becomes part of us, part of our soul. Even when they aren’t there anymore, a little piece of them—the way they made us feel, see, and hear—still lingers within us. For the first time, I feel confident looking in the mirror, seeing a person who has met both high and low emotional peaks, ready to take on a new day—full of music.